The Constitution of Order Among the Yoruba of Nigeria

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Date

2005

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"Understanding how human beings constitute order to affect productive ways of life is one of the central concerns of scholars. This study examines why three Yoruba communities of Nigeria - Ile-Ife, Ibadan and Abeokuta - differ in the extent to which their diverse groups of Yoruba elements engage in inter-group cooperation, resolve conflicts, and encourage commercial and industrial openness. The prevailing biophysical conditions and beliefs and past experiences in the three communities are first considered in order to come to terms with the particular contexts within which governance and property relationships are shaped. "In each community, the dominant beliefs and past experiences have served as the main sources of institutions for governance and property relationships. In Ile-Ife, most Ife elements believe that they are the individuals who can claim an ultimate descent from the presumed founder of the community. They serve as lords over most non-Ife elements such as Oyo elements. Most diverse Yoruba elements in Ibadan and Abeokuta, however, regard one another as equals in governance and property relationships. They see themselves as descendants of diverse groups of oppressed individuals that jointly founded their respective communities to be able to open up growing ranges of productive opportunities for most individuals. "Unlike Ibadan and Abeokuta, the failure to treat most individuals as equals in governance and property relationships in Ile-Ife has led Ife and Oyo elements to relate to each other as enemies and to use violence as a means to process their conflicts. The resultant insecurity of life and property has incapacitated Ile-Ife from having distinguished individuals, industrial estates, manufacturing companies and the substantial business investments found in Ibadan and Abeokuta. "These differences show that mutually productive ways of life can be precariously at risk when individuals relate to one another based on principles of inequalities rather than through principles of self-responsibility and mutual agreement among associates working with one another in self-governing communities of shared relationships. Ecological conditions, conflict types, cleavage structures and exposure to national political affairs are relatively similar across the three Yoruba communities and play little, peripheral role in explaining the different outcomes."

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Workshop, indigenous institutions, cooperation, land tenure and use, governance and politics

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